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Magara-Gashikanwa plantation, Burundi

Based on the work of Diomède Nyengayenge
Ministry of Rural development the Environment and Tourism, Burundi

This pioneering example of participatory management of forest plantations in Burundi has the main aim of producing fuelwood and poles. Management is carried out by village communities with the support of an NGO, on the basis of a management contract with the national forest service. It emphasizes the will of the people, particularly the women, to form an association to work together in managing a forest, thanks especially to an agreement on sharing revenue from plantation upkeep work.


The Magara plantation is a planted forest dominated by Eucalyptus grandis, covering about 60 ha on Magara hill in Gashikanwa Commune (Ngozi Province) in northern Burundi. It is State-owned, but managed on a participatory basis. An inventory carried out in September 1999 showed that the plantation was then seven years old.


Forest policy in Burundi over the past 20 years has basically had two main thrusts: self-sufficiency in the supply of wood products, and environmental protection and natural resource conservation. In this context, the country wanted to expand its planted forests to cover 20 percent of its land area (the objective for 2000). With the help of a number of countries (Belgium, France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia) and international organizations (the World Bank, the European Development Fund, the Aid and Cooperation Fund), the Government of Burundi launched a huge reforestation programme in 1978. The proportion of the country covered by planted stands rose from 2 to 7 percent by 1993, a very positive achievement, but far from the 2000 goal. National parks and nature reserves were also created. Unfortunately, the socio-political crisis that has been ravaging Burundi since 1993 undid many of the efforts so far made, with the disappearance of more than 30 000 ha of planted forest, especially in the north. Nevertheless, the ministry in charge of forests intends to continue the policy, thanks particularly to increased awareness among the local population, empowerment of the local administration, involvement of the local population in all activities relating to development of the forest heritage and, in general, improved management of this heritage.

Against this background, a Special Public Works Programme has sought to involve the local people in management of public plantations, allotting them small blocks of plantation adjoining larger blocks, which themselves adjoin large public blocks. This arrangement is formalized in a written agreement under which the people undertake to maintain both their own plantation and that of the Special Public Works Programme. Unfortunately this approach has not proved successful, because the people were not consulted at the outset. Moreover, the fact that they were not given title to the land on which the plantations were found meant that they did not believe in the validity of their rights over these plantations. Contradictory political messages during the election campaign merely added to the confusion.

In the case of natural stands managed by the National Institute for Nature Conservation and the Environment (INECN), management focuses on expanding income-generating activities around these stands to benefit local inhabitants. The institute has set up buffer zones where the local people can obtain the products they need. In return, it requires their active participation in all forest protection and management activities.


This plantation was established in 1995 by the ministry in charge of forests, with support from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on State-owned land where Rwandan refugees had settled. It was intended on the one hand to provide wood products for the refugees and on the other hand to involve them in environmental protection. After they left, activities on the plantation continued under the Support to Environmental Rehabilitation and Management Project.

Management of the plantation began in 1997 and inventories were made in 1999. A management contract binds the local population, the Forest Service and the local administration together, specifying the division of tasks and responsibilities among the partners. The Department of Forests provides technical training for the groups, which carry out all the silvicultural activities stipulated in the contract. The local administration participates in management not in the role of administrative authority but as an associate member. Likewise, the State does not act as an owner but also as an associate member. The target population is the people involved in the three existing groups of forest nursery workers.

Management thus had the aim of developing and ensuring the sustainability and productivity of the plantation by involving the local population in all activities relating to its management and running. The initiative for participatory management of the plantation came from the Support to Environmental Rehabilitation and Management Project. Then, together with the technical forest services, this project carried out awareness activities with the local administration and population. The technical forest services also taught the groups forestry techniques, conducted a socio-economic study on the use of forest products and demarcated and subdivided the plantation into blocks.

The groups made an agreement with the local administration and the ministry on the sharing of costs and returns. Thus, 10, 20 and 70 percent of the products of thinning go respectively to the local administration, the State and the groups. All other outputs are shared among the members of the groups, who can use them for various purposes. Modern charcoal-making techniques are used, and burners have been given training funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and executed by FAO. Part of the income received by the groups is paid into the Union for Cooperation and Development in order to build up a fund that will help in resource renewal, particularly through the production of forest and/or agroforestry seedlings.

A simple management plan lists the work to be carried out each year until 2003 on the three blocks (one for each group), with the nature, timing and length of each activity. Each block is divided into four plots, since a four-year rotation has been adopted. Anticipated outputs are posts, poles and fuelwood, depending on the type of management adopted. Silvicultural work focuses on harvesting and enrichment. The initial work concentrated mainly on plantation enrichment, for there were too many gaps as a result of unauthorized cutting and repeated illegal extraction. The seedlings for this enrichment were purchased by the Support to Environmental Rehabilitation and Management Project, which has provided the inputs and labour for the two seasons to date. In the second year the seedlings were produced and planted by the groups, with 30 000 seedlings being planted and 90 000 seedlings and 600 m3 of fuelwood produced.

Group members performed all the steps in setting up the nursery, preparing the ground and carrying out the planting. With regard to weeds, the management plan anticipates hoeing and clearing of the undergrowth to preserve the species planted. Maintenance of the trees consists of pruning, the selection of shoots and the elimination of poorly developed specimens. Firebreaks between the plots and around the whole plantation protect the trees from fire.

At present, the Forest Inspectorate is responsible for training the groups and fixing the silvicultural calendar. The groups receive support from the Burundi Rehabilitation Programme, working in collaboration with the World Food Programme, which provides them with food-for-work. If a group member break the rules laid down in the management contract, he or she is liable to penalties, ranging up to expulsion from the group.


The positive effects of the project are a reduction in thefts of standing trees, availability of fuelwood, replanting of the plantation and its upkeep by the groups, wide-scale involvement of women, the use of empty spaces to grow food crops, and an increase in household income. The people, especially the women, are keen to join forces in an association to carry out forest management activities. It is very important that all stakeholders respect the agreement and that the management committees be transparent in their dealings, and the penalties for contravention of the agreement are therefore an important element. However, there are certain constraints on the project, such as poverty, apathy following numerous appeals, political and institutional instability, and legislative deficiencies.

This experiment in participatory management is one of the first of its kind in Burundi. The involvement of a local NGO in management of the plantation is an example for the country. The agreement on the sharing of returns from maintenance work on the plantation is also a model to be applied elsewhere, in that it reserves a very motivating part for group members. Nonetheless, exchanges of experience with other more experienced groups would be helpful. It would thus be a good idea to organize exchange visits with associations or groups from neighbouring localities. The association should also get into the habit of recording its activities and results in a journal that the people can read. The media should also help in disseminating information.


Besse, F. & Vauron, P. 1990. Notes techniques et renseignements pratiques sur les pépinières et la plantation. Reforestation project, World Bank.

Bergen, W.D. & Ndimurirwo, L. 1989. La spécialisation régionale au Burundi: ses perspectives comme stratégies de développement. ISABU.

Bigawa, S., Ntakimazi, G. & Ntirushwa, F. 2000. Stratégie nationale et plan d’action en matière de la diversité biologique. INECN.

Centre technique forestier tropical. 1983. Etude de projets forestiers. Assistance technique auprès du Département des eaux et forêts.

Habonimana, A. 1986. Manuel d’inventaire forestier applicable aux petits boisements. MFCZN.

Habonimana, A. 1986. Monographie de la province Ngozi, Ministry of Planning, Burundi.

Ndimira, P.F. et al. 1993. Gestion participative des ressources forestières au Burundi. Etude pilote dans les communes de Giheta, Gitega et Makebuko.

Republic of Burundi. 1985. Law 1/02 of March 1985 regarding the Forest Code.

Plus inspection reports and reports of the Support to Environmental Rehabilitation and Management Project.

Cocoa agroforestry systems, Cameroon

Based on the work of Denis J. Sonwa
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Humid Forest Ecoregional Center, Cameroon

The cocoa agroforestry systems developed over past decades on the basis of local knowledge are helping to meet the needs of small farmers and the ecological requirements of central and southern Cameroon. The structural complexity and ecological and socio-economic sustainability of these systems are described in this contribution. Through constant innovation, cocoa farmers have been able to create a system that is today seen as sustainable.


The group of State-owned agroforests is located in the closed moist forest zone, covering an area of about 140 000 ha in Cameroon’s Centre and Sud Provinces. These agroforests border on natural forest stands and like them have a complex structure and significant specific diversity, containing not only cocoa trees, but also species providing NWFPs (Dacryodes edulis, Irvingia gabonensis, Elaeis guinensis, etc.), high-value timber species (Terminalia superba, Chlorophora excelsa, etc.), exotic fruit trees producing commonly consumed items (Persea americana, Mangifera indica, Citrus spp., etc.) and medicinal plants (Alstonia boonei, etc.). Most of the agroforests form a continuum, sometimes broken by other types of land use, forming a complex mosaic of ecosystems that help to satisfy the many needs of the inhabitants of the forest zone.


In view of the degradation and destruction of forest resources through human activity, the Cameroonian State enacted legislation that envisages the participation of the rural population in forest management and ensures that inhabitants share in benefits from the forest. Agroforestry practices, however, are still one of the main sources of income for farmers. With the passing of Laws 90/053 of 19 December 1990 (granting freedom of association) and 92/006 of 14 August 1992 (governing associations), farmers can now belong to a whole range of farmers’ organizations, such as common initiative groups (CIGs), associations and confederations, in order to share their experience and cope with difficulties in managing these agroforests.

The 1994 Cameroonian forest law divides forests into permanent forests and non-permanent forests in which agricultural crops (such as cocoa) can be grown. There are two ministries directly concerned with the management of agroforests composed of cocoa and forest species: the Ministry of Agriculture for cocoa and the Ministry of the Environment and Forests for forest species. Management of the forest zone is based on the southern Cameroonian zoning plan and is one of the components of the strategy to promote economic activities in rural areas. There is thus a synergy with the new agricultural policy in which cocoa cultivation has an important place. The government launched a national plan for agroforestry management a year ago.

The importance of cocoa cultivation has helped the State to set up development projects, the most recent being the Cocoa Development Company in 1974, with the task of developing plantations, the management of these being increasingly delegated to the farmers. The State has also set up the Support to Farmers’ Strategies and Professionalization of Agriculture Project, which includes the cocoa sector. This project supports laws relating to the creation and operation of farmers’ organizations, which have had a strong influence on plantation management. There is also the National Cocoa and Coffee Office, which is concerned only with cocoa plantation statistics.

The cocoa sector was stressed for many years, since it was seen as playing an essential role in the economy of rural regions. However, the cocoa crisis at the end of the 1990s caused upheavals in plantation management, indicated by the successive diversification of income sources on the initiative of the farmers themselves. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and chocolate manufacturers, has launched the Sustainable Tree Crop Programme, whose objectives include the long-term maintenance (or increase) of the productivity of perennial crops, including cocoa, while conserving biodiversity. The Sustainable Tree Crop Programme is in its second year in Cameroon and concerns 32 000 cocoa farmers, to whom IITA provides technical and financial support.

Cocoa cultivation has been a major activity in the Centre and Sud Provinces for a long time, and in 1991 it accounted for 139 651 ha. A reference zone of 1.54 million ha covering the two provinces was defined under the Alternative to Slash and Burn Programme, in order to seek sustainable solutions for natural resource management and extrapolate the results to similar zones covered by the Ecoregional Programme for the Humid Tropics of Africa, which covers 11 countries in Central and West Africa.

At the individual and/or farm level, the agroforests are managed by the farmers. Management objectives include the demarcation of landholdings, the constitution of standing capital and income generation thanks to multiple crops. Harvesting is the hardest stage in terms of labour, which is provided by family members and friends within the framework of rural labour associations.

The fall in cocoa prices and the 1992 law on cooperative societies and CIGs have encouraged the creation of associations, especially for marketing and/or the purchase of inputs. Thus, 25 percent of the cocoa farmers in southern Cameroon are now members of CIGs, while another 25 percent belong to informal village-based associations. Many CIGs and associations are joining forces today to pool their experience, market their produce and negotiate partnerships with bilateral and multilateral donors. One of the most active of these associations in southern Cameroon is the Confederation of Rural Organizations for Economic Cameroon, which covers a cocoa-growing area of 350 000 ha, with 300 CIGs and about 20 000 planters. It draws up a calendar of markets with the producers, guarantees producers a minimum sales price and assists in the collection of produce. Partnerships have been formed with bilateral aid organizations (GTZ, USAID, etc.), national and international NGOs and research structures (the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development, IITA, the Centre for International Forestry Research [CIFOR], etc.). Thanks to this programme, there are 300 collection centres for cocoa sales now operational in the Centre and Sud Provinces, run by the leaders of farmers’ organizations. Other confederations (FUPROCAM, FEGAISEM, etc.) have similar objectives and are also active in the cocoa sector.


Since the introduction of cocoa at the end of the nineteenth century, farmers have learned to combine traditional forest knowledge with agricultural practices relating to this crop. Through constant innovation, they have used these agroforestry practices to build up systems that are today seen as sustainable. Such systems have the advantage of bringing about a certain balance within households, forming mutual aid groups among planters to carry out the various agricultural tasks, providing money to meet farmers’ basic needs and responding to local and world-wide ecological demands.

Management of cocoa plantations does not follow the classic pattern of large-scale forest projects. There is indeed no management plan in the usual sense of the term. Rather, farmers practise a type of management that can be described as heritage-focused, in the sense that the agroforests are handed down from father to son and the son’s duty is to perpetuate this family wealth. The wide range of species managed and goals pursued is a positive element justifying the farmers’ attachment to these ecosystems and the flexibility of the management practised.

There are a certain number of stages in establishing a cocoa agroforest. After the trees have been felled, the planter grows food crops for three years, although an association with cocoa can be started in the first year. Certain plant species are retained on the plots to provide shade for the cocoa trees. The investment is thus very low in terms of finance and time, when compared with classic forestry projects. The whole family is involved in management, inasmuch as the cocoa is managed by the men, while the women and children are responsible for NWFPs and fruit trees. The tools used are locally made and therefore have a relatively low environmental impact. Upkeep includes weed control, thinning and protection against brown rot. One of the most important elements in the sustainability of these ecosystems is the possibility of controlling pests by using tree bark or by varying tree density. The bark of certain plants (Guibourtia tessmanii, Erythropheleum ivorense, etc.) is used to control brown rot, and this has a much lower negative impact than the massive use of synthetic pesticides. The plantations are fertilized by falling leaves from cocoa and companion trees. Weeds are reduced by the presence of shade in the first years.

Regeneration of cocoa trees is generally achieved through selective replanting (replacing one cocoa tree with another), partial replanting by block (following disruptions such as drought) or coppicing. Enrichment with companion trees is generally achieved through retention or through the introduction of diaspores. Spontaneous regeneration sometimes explains the propagation of certain companion species in cocoa plantations.

Economic assessment indicates that this agroforestry system is still financially viable despite the cocoa crisis. Moreover, timber from cocoa plantations is used in building houses and supplies the local timber trade. The combination of several companion species minimizes both the economic risk (avoiding dependence on one product) and the ecological risk (for example attack by pests). Income from the plantations is shared out among the households and meets the basic needs of many small farmers in southern Cameroon.

The traditional practices of “forest domestication” mean that the characteristic elements of semi-deciduous forests, evergreen forests and intra-forest savannah can be conserved in the same ecotone (forest/savannah). The introduction of new individuals helps to enrich both the diversity of microecosystems and also inter- and intra-specific diversity. The trees grown with cocoa form a multistorey structure in these agroforests similar to that of forests, thus fostering the conservation of plant, wildlife and microbiological diversity. Moreover, these systems are the land use that contains the most carbon per square unit (outside primary forest), thereby reducing the greenhouse effect.


Many cocoa agroforest management practices have today been recognized as sustainable and hence as suitable for replication elsewhere in Central Africa for agroforestry systems based on perennial crops (coffee, rubber, etc.). This applies, for example, to the methods used in establishing agroforests, their upkeep and regeneration. The readiness to accept innovation is, however, an important factor in their replication in other zones. Knowledge of farmers’ practices and management techniques is essential, which means that the participatory approach is an important element in formulating agroforestry research and development projects.

The shortage of quality seed is a major handicap to the development of agroforestry systems. Multiplication of healthy seedlings of both cocoa trees and companion species is a priority in developing plantations. Domestication of companion tree species while taking account of farmers’ preferences is seen today as a way of reducing poverty in Central and West Africa. Similarly, the development of cocoa tree by-products is still in the research stage and the integration of small animal husbandry into cocoa plantations has not yet been developed.

The certification of agroforestry system products should be encouraged. The foundations for this were laid in 2001–2002 with the development of a Production and Marketing Information System covering 5 percent of the country’s cocoa production. This system is still in its early stages, but it has given encouraging results regarding system management, the capacities of associations and marketing costs, and should be extended to other agroforestry components. The promotion of cocoa agroforest management under the Global Compact initiative (launched on 26 July 2000 by the Secretary-General of the United Nations) should also be encouraged.

The synergy of interests within the Sustainable Tree Crop Programme should be encouraged. Capacity-building in rural associations should be a priority, for these associations can provide access to producers and disseminate innovations. Exchange fora for manufacturers, producers, etc. should also be regularly organized.

If systems are to be better managed, emphasis should be placed on:

• taking account of local knowledge and rural dynamics;

• selection and multiplication of quality cocoa and companion tree varieties;

• domestication and marketing of NWFPs;

• development of by-products;

• promotion of the system’s products for the biological and/or certified product market;

• carbon sequestration and conservation;

• promotion and maintenance of synergy and feedback among research and development projects in the agroforestry sector.


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